How can you tell when a creationist is making stuff up?


I read this paper, “Using statistical methods to model the fine-tuning of molecular machines and systems”, a while back, and it was obvious crap. You can tell right there in the abstract where it makes a promise it does not deliver on, that “molecular fine-tuning…challenges conventional Darwinian thinking”. It then goes on to make a statistical argument that the probability of producing a functional protein with chance and selection is infinitesimal, that the waiting time problem is a killer for Darwinian mechanisms (it isn’t), and cites Behe extensively. The authors, Thorvaldsen and Hössjer, might as well have fired off a flare that exploded in flaming glitter letters that spelled out “I AM A CREATIONIST”, followed by Thorvaldsen doing a happy dance because he got his garbage published in a legitimate journal.

Now the journal has published an apology (not a retraction, an apology — it’s weird).

The Journal of Theoretical Biology and its co-Chief Editors do not endorse in any way the ideology of nor reasoning behind the concept of intelligent design. Since the publication of the paper it has now become evident that the authors are connected to a creationist group (although their addresses are given on the paper as departments in bona fide universities). We were unaware of this fact while the paper was being reviewed. Moreover, the keywords “intelligent design” were added by the authors after the review process during the proofing stage and we were unaware of this action by the authors. We have removed these from the online version of this paper. We believe that intelligent design is not in any way a suitable topic for the Journal of Theoretical Biology.

Hold on there, cowboy. Your reviewers and editors were unable to figure out that this was a creationist/intelligent design paper except that the authors added the keywords “intelligent design” post review? And you think removing the keywords now is sufficient action? If “intelligent design” is not a suitable topic, why is the paper still there with only the most superficial change?

I am not impressed with the perspicacity of the Journal of Theoretical Biology, and suspect that whoever wrote that strange disendorsement is lying.

Comments

  1. says

    If you’ve ever fine tuned anything in real life you know why that’s a really bad metaphor if your goal is to convince people that an all powerful deity is responsible for life. Fine tuning an old VCR for example. You pop the hood and throw in a tape and hit play. then you spend the next two or three hours tweaking trim pots and set screws. You don’t know what they do but twisting one this way makes it worse and the other way makes it better. That’s real fine tuning. Guess work and hope. Not the sign of a higher VCR god.

  2. says

    “How can you tell when a creationist is making stuff up?”

    His (and that’s disturbingly prevalent) lips are moving? His (even more disturbingly accurate) keyboard is spewing forth drivel?

    Creationists emulate the purported Creation by creating explanations consistent with the Creation for things that… aren’t. As the Geico commercials say, “it’s what they do.” The real problem is that some of them can’t be accused of lying because that requires full knowledge that what you’re saying is false, and many of them don’t have that knowledge in a true subjective way — they’re True Believers. That doesn’t make what they’re saying true; it just makes them slightly less morally culpable. (Slightly, because better knowledge than they have is easily available.)

  3. whheydt says

    It also came out in the PT discussion that the article is publicly available, but the “apology” is behind a paywall.

  4. Bruce says

    The article may say: “molecular fine-tuning…challenges conventional Darwinian thinking”, but I thought “molecular fine-tuning…WAS AND IS conventional Darwinian thinking”

  5. mnb0 says

    @3 Larpar: ““How can you tell when a creationist is making stuff up?”
    “Is that a trick question?”

    Yes. The correct question is: ever met a creationist who didn’t make stuff up?

  6. garnetstar says

    Bruce @6, you are correct. “Molecular fine-tuning” is known as “chemistry” among scientists, and is well-incorporated into evolutionary science.

    Although the field is apparently completely unknown to creationists.

  7. kwc20 says

    How can you tell when a creationist is making stuff up?

    Same way as with The Donald: his lips are moving.

    Really, PZ, that was too easy. You simply must ask more challenging questions.

    LOL

  8. says

    Bah! I came as far as the first sentence of the abstract: ” the fundamental constants of physics are finely tuned”.

    Really? When was this decided? Was there a meeting?

  9. Ridana says

    Since the publication of the paper it has now become evident that the authors are connected to a creationist group (although their addresses are given on the paper as departments in bona fide universities). We were unaware of this fact while the paper was being reviewed.

    It’s not the fact that it was authored by creationists that’s the problem, and that in itself should not be a criterium for or against acceptance (other than to save time). The problem is that regardless of the religious beliefs of the authors, or even their academic affiliations (which seem to be what passing review was actually based on), the content of the paper is tripe, and these reviewers have some more explaining to do as to why they thought it was science.

  10. leerudolph says

    Erlend Meyer @10: I assume that what they mean by “the fundamental constants of physics are finely tuned” is to invoke the Anthropic Principle, so called, or perhaps just one of what I seem to remember are several variants, all st00p1d. As the late lamented Bob Park used to say, if things were different, they would not be the same.

  11. says

    @leerudolph #12: The best one can say is that it can appear finely tuned to produce our type of universe. But that’s an argument from ignorance, which is the only argument creationists can provide.

  12. birgerjohansson says

    With an infinity to pick and choose from in the multiverse (possibly one in ten with 500 zeros) it is not surprising life can exist.
    .
    Then we have the Rare Earth hypothesis….just recently it has been established that the young moon had a strong magnetic field, and the interaction of the fields of the Earth- Moon system effectively blocked the strong activity of the rapidly spinning young sun.
    This does not prove a creator- it just indicates that complex life is a fluke, unlikely to be found at nearby stars.

  13. KG says

    birgirjohansson@14,

    just recently it has been established that the young moon had a strong magnetic field, and the interaction of the fields of the Earth- Moon system effectively blocked the strong activity of the rapidly spinning young sun.

    Fascinating – do you have a reference for that?

  14. KG says

    On fine tuning, I note that if either the fundamental constants, or the initial conditions, or (if the universe is non-deterministic) subsequent chance events had been different, I would not exist. Therefore, the universe was clearly created in order that I should.

  15. DanDare says

    Yes the big problam is that the paper passed review at all. Not who wrote it or why. Its content is crap.

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